Indigenous lives will improve when we stop just blaming government

Indigenous lives will improve when we stop just blaming government, by Anthony Dillon.

The inquest into the suicides of 13 young Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region over 3½ years started last week. …

Rest assured: colonisation is not to blame; the government is not to blame. Let’s end the denial and rid ourselves of what has been described as “learned helplessness”. While these messages that others are to blame can be seductively appealing, they are extremely disempowering — and let’s not forget who Australia’s most disempowered people are.

Overemphasising the role of government sends the message you are at the mercy of government and powerless to act to improve your own lives. Warren Mundine has said it is absurd to look to government to help in overcoming learned helplessness.

A solution to the suicide problem must include the people letting go of the misplaced hope that government will fix all their problems. …

Of the 13 suicides that prompted the inquest, it has been reported by the ABC that there was “evidence six of those … had been sexually abused”.

We have known about the sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities for a long time. Nicolas Rothwell wrote in this newspaper about the crisis in the Kimberley in 2011: “Pack rape is the most frequent mode of initiation into sex for pretty girls. These episodes are so distressing they rarely come out, but they show, of course, for years afterwards in the troubled behaviour of teenagers. How to bear such things?”

The first step of a solution must be to stop the denial. The next step is to stop blaming government. …

At this stage I should acknowledge that there are some people who, sadly, live in environments, often in remote communities, that are so toxic and resource-poor that it can be very difficult for them to bring about change in their lives. We need to ask ourselves why fellow Australians are living in these conditions while so many of their city cousins live in areas with easy access to fresh food, education, jobs and modern services. Interestingly, many city-based indigenous cousins are quick to blame government, racism and colonisation for the suicides, yet they are doing very well. Why?

hat-tip Barry Corke